FWC: Facts about the Burmese python

Published: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:47 p.m.

The Division of Habitat and Species Conservation of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provided the "Talking Points" about the Burmese python:

- The Burmese python is a nonnative species to Florida and to North America.

- Approximately 112,000 of these Asian snakes have been imported into the United States since 1990.

- Everglades National Park has been the site of suspected releases of these exotic pets, with population predictions in the tens of thousands. The National Park Service reported the removal of 311 Burmese pythons from the Everglades in 2008.

- Other pythons have been captured in Big Cypress National Preserve and Collier Seminole State Park, north of the Everglades; areas around Miami to the northeast; Key Largo to the southeast and other lands, both public and private, throughout the region.

- The FWC lists the Burmese python as a Reptile of Concern, which means it has habits that may adversely affect the environment or may be a threat to public safety. Other Reptiles of Concern are the Indian python, reticulated python, African rock python, amethystine or scrub python, green anaconda and Nile monitor lizard.

- As a Reptile of Concern, this python must be licensed by FWC’s Captive Wildlife Section in order to be kept as a pet. The license costs $100 per year and mandates specific caging requirements. Burmese pythons more than 2 inches in diameter must be implanted with a microchip that identifies the animal. This rule applies to all Reptiles of Concern. It is unlawful to allow to escape or to release it into the wild.

- The Burmese python is commonly kept as a pet because it is more docile than other large nonnative constrictors.

- There is a low risk of a human attack. Documented human attacks by pythons in the United States involve the snake’s owner or immediate family.

- A recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows that the Burmese python could survive throughout Florida. The report states that other factors such as food and shelter need consideration, but the “Burmese pythons and other giant constrictor snakes have shown themselves to be highly adaptable to new environments.”

- A non-venomous constrictor, the Burmese python preys on native Florida species of mammals, birds and reptiles, as well as nonnative species including black rats.

- According to the National Park Service, the appetite of the Burmese python poses a serious threat to some of Florida’s already endangered species. Burmese pythons have eaten four Key Largo woodrats, a federally endangered species.

- The Burmese python may reach a length of 26 feet and a weight of more than 200 pounds. The largest Burmese python captured in the Everglades was 16 feet and 150 pounds. Its native habitat ranges from India to lower China, throughout the Malay Peninsula and on some islands in the East Indies. It usually lives near water.

- Although semi-aquatic, this snake is a good climber.

- Pythons lay eggs, unlike boa constrictors. A female Burmese python may lay 50-100 eggs and will wrap its body around the clutch to keep it warm and to defend the eggs against predators. The female python can raise its temperature by rhythmically twitching muscles which generates heat and helps incubate the eggs. This incubation process may last two to three months. Once the eggs are hatched, baby pythons are on their own to survive.

- The USGS and the Everglades National Park are investigating the behavior and biology of the Burmese python to get a better understanding of the snake’s requirements for survival. Their findings also assess the risk of invasion into other areas of the United States.

- Further information may be found on FWC’s Web site at www.MyFWC.com/nonnatives. To see the complete report from USGS, go to www.usgs.com.

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